UWO parenting research for Women’s Fund identifies strengths, challenges in Winnebago County | #parenting

While 87% of parents who participated in a recent University of Wisconsin Oshkosh study say Winnebago County is a good place to raise a family, local leaders want to alleviate resource and communication gaps and work to increase quality of life for area children.

Two faculty members worked with UWO’s Center for Customized Research and Services (CCRS) to conduct the study for the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation’s Women’s Fund.

The two-pronged effort involved professor Jennifer Considine, of communication studies; and associate professor Andrew Smock, of radio TV film, who held focus group discussions and developed and administered parent surveys.

Jennifer Considine

“Together, we really are professional listeners. We know how to ask questions and design surveys to uncover the underlying issues,” Considine said. “We heard a lot about the joys and challenges of parenting, and this was all before COVID-19 even started.”

Research participants named the following positive aspects of parenting in Winnebago County: small town feel and location, an engaged community, opportunities to connect with children, connections to teachers, increasing diversity and varied activities.

However, resource gaps  also were identified:

  • Parent-mentor networks
  • One-stop shop for basic needs as well as an online version for resources
  • More affordable and accessible public transportation and childcare
  • More accessible mental health care
  • Increased multicultural activities and a more inclusive community
  • Wraparound services at local schools, such as before and after school care, community social workers and parent advocates and mentors

The parents also shared that they would like to see additional local recreational sports, volunteer opportunities for families and youth, parent-child classes and free outdoor activities, especially during the winter months. They indicated classes or trainings related to effective discipline, racial literacy, social media and internet safety and emotional and mental health support for youth and families would be helpful.

“Out of all the dialog, one message that came out loud and clear is that parents don’t know about all the resources that are available,” said Karlene Grabner, Women’s Fund executive director. “We need to work on finding more and better ways to connect people with what is available.”

Considine added that some of the parents in the study reported not having strong networks to learn about resources or the access to find the programs they need for their children.

Another limiting factor is the ability of parents to consume and sort through the many messages they regularly encounter. “Busy parents can only take in so much,” Grabner added.

In September, Considine and Smock shared the results of the research with Women’s Fund leaders, who are sorting through the findings to determine next steps with the effort.

CCRS at UWO helps drive regional economic development by connecting UW Oshkosh resources to Wisconsin businesses and organizations. The center offers consulting and customized research, surveys and training.

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